An office building in Falls Church is in the clear after it was evacuated for the second time today, the latest incident involving a bomb threat, at around noon. The building, which houses an abortion clinic at 900 S. Washington St., was evacuated just hours earlier after fireworks were set off in the building’s elevator Thursday morning.
The building was given the all-clear at approximately 2:32 p.m. today.
An employee on the building’s first floor located two sheets of the paper with the word “bomb” stamped on it scattered at the rear entrance of the building around 9 a.m. on Thursday, Apr. 27. The employee notified building manager Hank Lavery, who relayed the employee’s findings and confirmed them to the News-Press, and reported the notices to City of Falls Church Police. Lavrey went going door-to-door throughout the building asking tenants to close their doors and evacuate. Falls Church police arrived at the building around 12:30 p.m. and finished evacuating the building. Responders also shut down the right lane of S. Washington St. between W. Cameron Rd. and George Mason Dr. while the investigation was ongoing. City police then requested mutual aid from neighboring Arlington County and Virginia State Police to aid in the building’s bomb sweep by using bomb-detecting dogs because F.C. police’s own K-9 unit is still in training. The sweep lasted roughly two and a half hours.
“City of Falls Church Police, in conjunction with Arlington County Police and State Police, have found no evidence of an explosive device in the building. The building is clear. Everyone is welcome to return work and get back to their daily routine,” City public information officer Susan Finarelli said in a statement.
The building also received a bomb threat last July which required evacuation as well.
The offices at 900 S. Washington St. have drawn public attention for housing the abortion clinic, Falls Church Healthcare Center. Protesters have regularly gathered in front the building to object to the center, most recently when around 100 students from Christendom College in Front Royal staged a “Stand for Life” protest last weekend. The protest was met with a counter-protest on the opposite side of S. Washington St. across from the building. Finarelli, Lavery and Falls Church Police Chief Mary Gavin all acknowledged that protesters were lawful and orderly in last weekend’s demonstration as well as the smaller ones that occur almost daily. Gavin noted that today’s bomb threat was likely targeted at the clinic’s presence, and Lavery added that visitors to the building occasionally have to be removed for causing disturbances related to the clinic.
Katy Crigler, a clinic employee, read a statement from the clinic’s supervisor to the media in attendance:
“We can only praise the police department of our city of Falls Church for their continued professionalism and care for all citizens and businesses safety. Pro-choice healthcare centers have experienced an increase in harassments, threats and the presence of protesters since the [presidential] election. Thanks to Chief Gavin, Sergeant Rau and our associations, CAM, NAAF and FMF, and to others, we are well prepared to deal with these threats and can minimize the disruption to our loyal patients. I do find it interesting that these suspicious incidents today follow on the heels of demonstrations of Christendom College on Saturday.”
The bomb threat comes just a few hours after smoke and an explosion-like noise was reported at the same office building in Falls Church around 9 a.m. Thursday. After evacuating the building, fire investigators from Falls Church, Arlington and Fairfax County found exploded fireworks in the building elevator. Shortly after, City of Falls Church’s fire marshal gave the building the all clear and it was reopened at 9:30 a.m. There were no reports of injuries.
Police say both incidents are currently under investigation and they ask anyone with information to contact them at 703-248-5053.